Intel’s next revision of Thunderbolt, its high-speed interface combining SuperSpeed USB, DisplayPort, PCIe, and DC power into one cable, could boast a massive increase in data transfer speeds. The improvement was teased this week by Intel’s director of I/O strategy in the Client Connectivity Division, Ben Hacker, who spoke to Tom’s Hardware and told its editors to expect a rough “doubling” of the current specification. Thunderbolt 4, the latest revision, features a maximum performance throughput of 40 Gbps.
“What I think we’re pretty confident of is for at least another speed bump somewhere, and who knows exactly what that is, but call it roughly a doubling,” Hacker said on The Tom’s Hardware Show. “Today our data path bandwidth within Thunderbolt 4 is kind of aligned to like a PCIe Gen 3×4 performance, and for some of our storage applications, you’re seeing storage in that kind of form factor already doubling in speed.”
“There’s already a need for kind of high-performance storage for, maybe, NVMe SSDs or desktop raid arrays that are going to be able to consume more than the 40 gigabits of bandwidth or just under 40 that we can provide today.”
Hacker wasn’t sure whether the next version of Thunderbolt would actually be called Thunderbolt 5, but the future iteration of the interface seems poised to introduce new levels of practicality for its users. Intel accomplished this in previous versions of Thunderbolt by converging various technologies, such as USB-C.
“I think we can definitely stay within the electrical kind of communication path and on the same connector so it’s truly a familiar, backward compatible […] solution,” Hacker said. “…at least kind of for the next step, whenever that comes, I think we’re pretty confident that we can keep that on a kind of same mechanical interface, same connector, roughly the same topology.”